When I was 15 years old I was obsessed with getting bigger and stronger. I lifted weights almost every day, ate as much as I possibly could and compulsively checked and re-checked my weight for any slight gains, believing that if I could just put on a few extra pounds I would be able to compensate for my extremely limited athletic ability and simply muscle up anyone who I encountered on the basketball court or football field. One day after school I stopped at the GNC at the local mall and picked up a super sized bottle of Creatine, what was then (the mid 90’s) the hot new item on the supplement market. The second I brought the bottle home and put it on the kitchen counter my Dad took one look at it, said a few choice words in my general direction, and ordered me to get back in my car and take the bottle back to the store. So, that was that, and I headed back to the gym with my head down in shame to try and do it the old fashioned way.
Fast forward to the health and wellness world in 2014, where it is almost impossible to go anywhere without hearing about some sort of 30-day cleanse, meal replacement, protein shake, fat burner, energy drink or multi-vitamin and their supposed health benefits. As a personal trainer I am surrounded by this stuff day in and day out, and I am constantly asked by clients and gym-goers if they should be taking supplements, how much, when, and what are the best ones. My answer? It depends. Worst answer ever, right? Well, it’s the truth, because each of us has different goals, lifestyles, habits, routines, and maybe most importantly, budgets. So if you are one of the many thinking about trying a supplement in the near future, here are a few questions to ask yourself and a few things to consider:
- Do you forget to eat, or do you have a job and/or lifestyle that makes eating regular meals a challenge? I’m a food lover, I enjoy eating and I will always enjoy eating, so forgetting to eat is a completely foreign notion to me, but I have many clients who simply forget to eat during the course of the day or are too overwhelmed to allow themselves the time for a proper meal. If you are a mom, bartender, construction worker, mechanic, salesperson, pilot, or server of some sort, to name a few professions I have worked with in the past, right now you might be nodding your head saying, yeah, that sounds like me. Having a protein shake or bar on hand during the working hours might be a good idea.
- Do you lack the proper nutrients in your diet as it is and take an inordinate amount of vitamins to compensate? As I wrote in my previous blog post, I take a fair amount of vitamins but only the ones my body is lacking. The good thing about certain meal replacements is that they are just that, full meals with all of the major nutrients you might be missing in your normal diet. Given the deluge of information on what you should and shouldn’t be consuming on a daily basis, a meal replacement shake or bar, for example, might take away the stress of having to remember to take a big old stack of vitamins with every meal.
- Are you a heavy exerciser who doesn’t eat post-workout? One of the biggest issues I have with my clients is their lack of eating pre and post workout. When it comes to eating pre-workout, some of my clients tell me that they don’t want to eat because it upsets their stomach and they then have trouble exercising. That’s perfectly ok, but if you know you are headed to the gym for some strenuous activity you need to get the proper nutrients back in you post-workout. Scarfing down a plate of grilled chicken and spinach after your workout might not be realistic, but filling up a blender bottle with water and protein powder is pretty simple.
- Are you struggling to lose weight on your own? When it comes to diet and nutrition, my goal first and foremost, is to help my clients eat healthier and, in turn, eat “real” food, as opposed to supplements and the like. But sometimes a proper diet just isn’t enough. It’s not fair and no fun, but I’ve had many of those same clients struggle with food, because they think that they are eating properly but can’t seem to shed the extra pounds or change their body the way they want to. Real food is always my first option, but sometimes combining food and supplements, or even using supplements on their own can have positive effects.
- How much money do you spend on coffee runs to Dunkin Donuts, trips to Wawa or CVS for a snack, or a quick fast food option on the way home from work? No doubt, supplement products are expensive, and that is usually the first hesitation when people are presented with options. But if you take a minute to add up all the little food purchases you make during a day or a week, you might be surprised at the final numbers, not to mention the time and energy spent making coffee runs or grabbing a late night snack. Money is always an issue, for sure, but as I like to tell my clients, sometimes you have to take that money and make an investment in yourself.
So are supplements for you? Well, as I said above, the answer is … maybe. But if you are stuck in a rut with your diet and not sure where to go next, they might be the next best bet.
If you are interested in learning about some of the products that I use, how they might benefit you or if you have questions about supplement products in general, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, happy to help.